OCTOBER 25, 2004
An announcement tomorrow
Tomorrow afternoon the Grand Prix World Championship (GPWC) organization is going to announce its full plans for a Grand Prix series in 2008, after the end of the current Concorde Agreement and while this may be dismissed as yet another bargaining position there are beginning to be signs that the GPWC is actually for real and is going to build its own World Championship-level series. The FIA may wish to have its own Formula 1 in 2008 but if all the big teams have decided to go racing in a different formula, the federation will need to consider such action given the potential loss of credibility from running a Formula 1 World Championship which is of little relevance.
Probably the most important thing about the expected GPWC statement is that it will be signed by the four remaining members of the oragnization: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Renault and Ferrari. It seems that Ford is no longer a member of the GPWC although if it was the Detroit manufacturer would have little credibility, having just packed up its F1 programme because it could not afford to continue. This action, made necessary by the company's bean-counters in Detroit, who understand nothing about Formula 1, has done serious damage to the credibility of the company in Grand Prix racing not just with the F1 insiders but also with the other car manufacturers which were relying on Ford's help.
About the only thing left now which could give Ford a worse name in F1 would be the closure of Jaguar Racing, which remains a possibility until someone in Detroit gives the go-ahead for the team to be sold. There have been rumours of legal actions against Ford for some time and there is still a strong possibility that Ford will be sued by some of those who signed the Concorde Agreement because the company has reneged on its commitment to the other parties in the agreement. Ford lawyers may try to argue that if Jaguar Racing closes down it has no such commitments but the fact that the company was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jaguar Cars means that Ford will still be open to charges that it broke the contract. For those on the attack there is little to lose because Ford simply wants to sweep the whole business under the carpet and may be willing to shell out money to make the law suits go away.
The threat of legal action is actually a very good reason for Ford to try hard to keep Jaguar Racing alive in a different form and it is hoped that the company will eventually realize this and push through the sale and save the jobs of those who work at Milton Keynes.
If the big teams stick together in the years ahead, it is almost certain that Honda and Toyota will follow them to the new series. It makes no sense to do anything else and all the other surviving teams (which are, in any case, largely dependent on the GPWC members) will follow, which would leave the FIA and any other potential rival series, such a the notional GP1 championship, without teams. They can no doubt dredge up a lot of F1 wanabees but it is not the same thing.
The most important issue of all, therefore, is how to ensure that no split occurs and so the most important fight at the moment is actually the battle for control of the Formula One group, which is due to come up in the High Court in London in November. It will probably be adjourned until next spring but after that further adjournment will not be easy. If the banks which control 75% of the shares in the business win management control away from Bernie Ecclestone, they will by all accounts hand the running of the business over to the GPWC.
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